Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Preview - Group F
By Imtiaz Mussa

World Cup Titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
Last Time We Saw Them: They won their fifth World Cup in Korea/Japan.
June 13 vs. Croatia
June 18 vs. Australia
June 22 vs. Japan
The Manager: Carlos Alberto Parreira managed the Brazilian team in 1994 and is ready to go for a second title. He was also in charge of Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. He is well liked by his players and creates a happy atmosphere. Unlike Scolari four years ago, he will allow his players to have sex with their girlfriends/wives during the tournament. He thinks it will relax the players. We will see how the tactics work.
Goalkeepers: Dida (AC Milan), Julio Cesar (Inter Milan), Rogerio Ceni (Sao Paulo)
Defenders: Cafu (AC Milan), Cicinho (Real Madrid), Lucio (Bayern Munich), Juan (Bayer Leverkusen), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid), Gilberto (Hertha Berlin), Cris (Olympique Lyon), Luisao (Benfica), Mineiro (Sao Paulo)
Midfielders: Juninho Pernambucano (Olympique Lyon), Emerson (Juventus), Ze Roberto (Bayern Munich), Gilberto Silva (Arsenal), Kaka (AC Milan), Ricardinho (Corinthians)
Forwards: Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Robinho (Real Madrid), Ronaldinho (Barcelona), Adriano (Inter Milan), Fred (Olympique Lyon)
Breakdown: Parreira will have more talent on this squad than he did in 1994. It all starts with Ronaldinho, the two-time World Player of the Year. The man is a magician with the ball. Joining him in the attacking midfield position will be Kaka who has been sensational for AC Milan. Those two will provide service to Ronaldo and Adriano. The new golden boy of Brazilian football Robinho will be on the bench but will certainly provide a spark. There are two concerns for Brazil. First, Ronaldo had his worst season ever as a professional. He also had some personal problems recently. His second marriage which lasted eight months included a miscarriage and accusations of infidelity from both sides. Four years ago, people counted him out after suffering a career threatening injury and he stormed back to be the leading scorer of the tournament. He will be motivated again. As usual, Brazil’s defense has been questioned. Full-backs Roberto Carlos and Cafu are a combined 69 years old. Expect Cicinho to see some action off the bench. None of the players in the center of the defense are considered to be front line players. Even Dida isn’t a unanimous choice. However, with Ronaldinho’s ridiculous skills, Adriano’s power, Ronaldo’s nose for the goal, Robinho’s dribbling, and Kaka’s sublime ability, this team can win it all.
Star Man: Ronaldinho – midfielder – FC Barcelona
The genius from Porto Alegre will be the showcase of Brazil’s attack this time around unlike four years ago when he burst onto the scene highlighted by his free kick against England. He man invents tricks to do with the ball and will practice them until he is ready to use them in a game. The opposition will need to consistently double and triple team him and with this group, that means someone really good could be wide open for a chance at the net.
Verdict: With so much attacking brilliance and strength in depth, they are the odds on favorite to win the entire thing. They will win this group and might be on a collision course with the United States in the second round.

World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: It was 1974 and the Aussies were dismissed in the first round.
June 13 vs. Japan
June 18 vs. Brazil
June 22 vs. Croatia
The Manager: Guus Hiddink will be heading to his third straight World Cup. The 59 year old took Holland to the semis in 1998 and repeated the same feat in 2002 with South Korea. He has also been managing PSV Eindhoven while being Aussie boss. He will be leaving Australia after the World Cup and has already left Eindhoven. He will be the new manager of the Russian team after being linked with the England job.
Goalkeepers: Mark Schwarzer (Middlesbrough, England), Zeljko Kalac (AC Milan, Italy), Ante Covic (Hammarby, Sweden)
Defenders: Michael Beauchamp (Central Coast), Craig Moore (Newcastle United, England), Lucas Neill (Blackburn Rovers, England), Tony Popovic (Crystal Palace, England), Mark Milligan (Sydney FC)
Midfielders: Marco Bresciano (Parma, Italy), Tim Cahill (Everton, England), Scott Chipperfield (Basle, Switzerland), Jason Culina (PSV Eindhoven, Holland), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers, England), Vince Grella (Parma, Italy), Stan Lazaridis (free agent), Josip Skoko (Stoke City on loan from Wigan Athletic, England), Mile Sterjovski (Basle, Switzerland), Luke Wilkshire (Bristol City, England)
Forwards: John Aloisi (Alaves, Spain), Harry Kewell (Liverpool, England), Archie Thompson (PSV Eindhoven, Holland), Mark Viduka (Middlesbrough, England), Josh Kennedy (Dinamo Dreseden, Germany)
Breakdown: Hiddink has transformed the Australians into a side that is a constant threat to score. Middlesbrough hitman Mark Viduka enjoyed a fine end to the season and will take his good form into Germany. Slightly behind him will be Everton’s Tim Cahill who has eight goals in just 14 international matches. They will get service from wingers Harry Kewell and Marco Bresciano. In goal, Mark Schwarzer is a keeper who can win games. He is a veteran who will not make any mistakes. The weakness of this team is the defense. In order to have an attacking style, Hiddink only has a three man backline. Only Lucas Neill has had consistent match experience. Whoever fills the other two spots will not be of high quality. Look for the central midfielders to play more of a holding role in order to help. We will see if their lack of experience kicks in.
Star Man: Marco Bresciano – midfielder – Parma
He is a very quick player who is full of stamina and skill. He will cause plenty of havoc on one of the wings and an uncanny knack to score some crucial goals. The Parma man will be one to watch.
Verdict: It may be their first World Cup in 32 years but they are in a weak enough group where they could make it to the second round.

World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: They failed to make it out of the first round in Korea/Japan.
June 13 vs. Brazil
June 18 vs. Japan
June 22 vs. Australia
The Manager: Zlatko Kranjcar is an attack minded coach who led Dynamo Zagreb and FC Zagreb to domestic success. He took over the national team in 2004 and led the team to the top of their qualifying group without a loss. He is the father of playmaking midfielder Niko Kranjcar.
Goalkeepers: Tomislav Butina (Club Bruges), Stipe Pletikosa (Hajduk Split), Joe Didulica (Austria Vienna)
Defenders: Robert Kovac (Juventus), Stjepan Tomas (Galatasaray), Dario Simic (AC Milan), Mario Tokic (Austria Vienna), Josip Simunic (Hertha Berlin), Igor Tudor (Siena)
Midfielders: Jerko Leko (Dynamo Kiev), Niko Kranjcar (Hajduk Split), Niko Kovac (Hertha Berlin), Marko Babic (Bayer Leverkusen), Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Ivan Leko (Club Bruges), Luka Modric (Dinamo Zagreb), Jurica Vranjes (Werder Bremen), Anthony Seric (Panathinaikos)
Forwards: Dado Prso (Rangers), Ivan Klasnic (Werder Bremen), Bosko Balaban (Club Bruges), Ivica Olic (CSKA Moscow), Ivan Bosnjak (Dinamo Zagreb)
Breakdown: Under Kranjcar, Croatia has returned to a technical attacking style that carried the team to third place in the 1998 World Cup. Up front, Dado Prso is the main goalscoring threat on the team. The striker averages a goal every other game for Rangers. Darijo Srna can be considered the Croatian David Beckham for his passing and free kicks. Igor Tudor is an intimidating presence in the back having played in Italy. Croatia’s main problem is that they do not very much depth should injuries come up.
Star Man: Darijo Srna – midfielder – Shakhtar Donetsk
The Croatian David Beckham is extremely quick and has tremendous free kick and passing skills. He scored five goals during Croatia’s qualifying campaign. He will also get back and play some defense when called upon. He is the complete package.
Verdict: A lack of depth and genuine quality makes their trip to the second round doubtful.

World Cup Titles: 0
Last Time We Saw Them: The hosts made it to the second round in 2002.
June 13 vs. Australia
June 18 vs. Croatia
June 22 vs. Brazil
The Manager: Zico was a legendary Brazilian midfielder who scored 66 goals in 88 games. He is trying to inject some creativity into a strictly disciplined Japanese side. This World Cup will be his first and last and manager as he has decided to retire from the game.
Goalkeepers: Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi (Jubilo Iwata), Yoichi Doi (FC Tokyo), Seigo Narazaki (Nagoya Grampus Eight)
Defenders: Tsuneyasu Miyamoto (Gamba Osaka), Alessandro Santos (Urawa Reds), Yuji Nakazawa (Yokohama F Marinos), Keisuke Tsuboi (Urawa Reds), Akira Kaji (Gamba Osaka), Yuichi Komano (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), Koji Nakata (Basle, Switzerland), Teruyuki Moniwa (FC Tokyo)
Midfielders: Takashi Fukunishi (Jubilo Iwata), Mitsuo Ogasawara (Kashima Antlers), Shinji Ono (Urawa Reds), Yasuhito Endo (Gamba Osaka), Hidetoshi Nakata (Bolton, England), Shunsuke Nakamura (Celtic, Scotland), Junichi Inamoto (West Bromwich Albion, England)
Forwards: Seiichiro Maki (JEF United Chiba), Keiji Tamada (Nagoya Grampus Eight), Atsushi Yanagisawa (Kashima Antlers), Masashi Oguro (Grenoble, France), Naohiro Takahara (Hamburg, Germany)
Breakdown: The reigning Asian champions have an increasing group of players who are currently playing European football. They are led by Hidetoshi Nakata who has plenty of experience and Shunsuke Nakamura who has emerged as a favorite of Celtic faithful. Others have tried to make the move but have been far less successful. The team lacks a natural goalscorer and will count on goals coming from all over. Though they won their qualifying group, they were less than impressive.
Star Man: Hidetoshi Nakata – midfielder – Bolton Wanderers
Japan’s most famous player brings a great deal of European experience to the national side. He can play anywhere in the midfielder and if need be, can play striker. He will be counted on along with Nakamura to drive Japan.
Verdict: The talent just isn’t there for them to get out of the first round.

Group F Predicted Order of Finish

German Football Term of the Day
Schlusspfiff – Final whistle


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7:15 PM  

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